"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: August 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Solid Writing Advice from Wilkins MacQueen

Today we look at writing advice from Wilkins MacQueen - a cherished subscriber - who already knew exactly what she needed to do - even when she was seeking guidance from myself and others.
She says: "You have to understand as writers our sense of what works and doesn't is our best quality/judge. And at the end, what three things do you want to leave the readers with, giving them the great "aaaahhhh" finish? Satisfaction, that's what we need to deliver. What ending is the only possible ending? What have the forgoing 80 odd thousand words that lead to it pointed to, and won't disappoint those who traveled with you word by word this far. Make it worth the read."


What To Do When You're Nearly Ready

To Set Your Writing Free

Rob Parnell

Most writers get nervous when they're just about to send out their work.
It's natural to fear rejection, criticism - even praise.
Many writers actually never get to submit their work for fear that their work isn't ready - that there's just one more thing it needs, one more edit pass - or some burst of self confidence or inspiration that needs to happen.
It's right to feel nervous and unsure - it shows that you have the right mentality about your work. 
Simply put, you care, which is good.
Too many bad writers don't. They put their writing 'out there' too soon, before it's ready.
But you're not like that, are you?
You want it to be right and good.
What are the final steps you can take - just before you start submitting your writing to publishers, agents and, if you're a self publisher, direct to your readers?
Here's what Wilkins told me in a recent email:
"I need a good editing job. I am so close to the end, I found some plot holes, worked out a few other kinks then thought - I can't do this. Overwhelmed. Panic ensued."
You can sense the fear, right?
And probably because it's familiar to you!
I for one knew where she was coming from. Sometimes you try to hold the whole novel in your head and you just can't do it - there seems to be so many flaws, so many things that need fixing. It really can be very overwhelming.
Wilkins thought that maybe I could take over the job of editing her manuscript - but I assured her I didn't feel that was necessary. The manuscript read well, she was obviously talented and careful about her presentation. I felt I couldn't improve on her work - and told her so.
(I always believe the best person to edit work is the author anyway - other people never really get what you're doing as well as yourself.)
She went on:
"Thanks for the encouragement. You know the lonely road we travel. Not having critique partners, I have no sounding board, discussions etc." 
This is a common enough experience for writers - especially as we improve, it's hard to find people at the same level - opinions we can trust. 
Plus, writers with the competence to help us are often way too busy with their own work.
It takes a lot of time and energy to read, edit and comment on a novel - which is why the process can be expensive. Quite apart from the issue that successful writers tend to only advise you on what they would do - rather than on what you need to do.
It's a fine line - and another reason why the authors themselves need to make the hard decisions about their work...
She continued:
"I have learned so much on this journey - write every day is the big one."
Ah, how this warms my heart! If you learn only this one thing from the Easy Way to Write, I will die a happy man.
When writers tell me they're not improving or that they're plagued by imaginary blocks, I know one thing for sure: they're not in the habit. They're not writing every day, as they should. 
Because writing is the disease and its own cure. You learn more by writing than is in any books. Write daily and you improve daily, it's as simple as that.
Wilkins added:
"Stay focused, carry a notebook for notes to self."
BE your writing at all times - whenever you're away from your desk. Let your writing command your thoughts and your attention. Fight like an addict to get back to your craft!
"Being this close to the finish I'm feeling queasy. Good enough? What obvious things have I missed plot wise, character development and all that."
And this is all good. This is how you should feel - uneasy until you're sure you've covered all the bases - and made the work whole.

"One of the most valuable things I've learned is when writing fast, that first blush on each section, imperative to go back and get rid of "was". Any sentence with "was" can be improved."
Yes, remove the passive in your work. 'Was' foreshadows any passive sentence. This simple lesson can improve your work no end.
"(Use) active verbs, so much better. Kill adverbs - they weaken any sentence. Make better word choices."
You see it's clear that Wilkins knows exactly what to do. She's answering her own questions - providing her own guidance.

"Control the sentences. Structure them. Kill the descriptive as much as possible, letting the reader fill in the blanks, they become part of the process then, they invest in the story when the imagination can participate - don't tell what you want the reader to know. They can get it without being pounded over the head..."
All superb advice - and not a word coming from me!
You really can trust that inner voice - the one that can see the faults and knows how to fix them.
Thanks, Wilkins, for all your wise words.

You know that you should always trust that the answer lies within.
As long as you:

Keep writing!
 rob at home


“Every new writer is but a new crater of an old volcano."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to Make Money Writing Articles

There's a lot of crass and simplistic nonsense about writing articles on the Net. Most of this information comes from self serving marketing wannabes who want you to believe that by using their system you will become rich overnight. 
The reality is, of course, quite different.
If you're interested in writing articles for profit, the first thing you must do is forget about the Internet
The pay for Internet articles is either negligible or in most cases, non-existent. The only way to make (a dribble of) money writing articles for the Net is to crank out about ten a day - which some people actually do for a while - but this is not something most writers would regard as fair or fulfilling work.
No, much better is to target good old fashioned magazines and newspapers. Okay, so it's harder to get in, but not quite as hard as you'd imagine if you put your mind to it.
And that's the key. Article writing is more about mindset than talent. A good article writer is not always a particular expert on things, but rather 'appears' to be an expert. Because, as anyone who writes magazine and newspaper articles will tell you, information is only a small part of what the article writer is conveying.
Most of it is about attitude. Take a good look at a few magazine articles soon and study them with this in mind.
If you can emulate the 'tone' of a magazine, you're already talking the editor's language - and getting them excited about your writing, whatever the topic you've chosen.
It's too easy for us to get bogged down in research and relating information when what we should be doing is getting our 'style' under control.
I spent years afraid of writing articles because I thought I didn't know enough about subjects to warrant me writing about them. At the same time I felt that the quality of writing in magazines was so poor I didn't want to associate myself with it.
But, of course, I was completely missing the point!
Magazine articles are written the way they are because that's the way readers want them - easy to follow, simplistic and full of energy. 
I realize now it's actually a great skill to achieve that seemingly effortless style - and rather than looking down on those article writers, as I used to, I admire them and their dexterity.
So where do you start if you want to write for magazines?
Simple. Start reading them.
To be honest, this is the bit I find the hardest. I'm not a big magazine reader. Life seems too short. If you're the same as me, remind yourself you only have to read a magazine a few times to get the 'feel' of the editorial, and learn from it.
Make a note of the subject matter and brainstorm a few ideas you might like to pitch to them. Remember that you're not trying to be original - magazines are happy to publish articles about the same subjects over and over. What makes the articles original is your particular slant or way of expressing yourself.
(By the way, it pays to remember that magazines only exist as a platform to distribute advertisments. To believe anything else - that there is perhaps some 'higher purpose' to magazines - is to delude yourself. This knowledge may help you get some perspective on the real 'role' of articles within magazines. For instance, articles that deliberately flatter and cater to the needs/wants of the target demographic of a magazine are far more likely to appeal to its editor.)
When pitching to a magazine for the first time, I've found it's a good idea to tack on either a complete article or at least samples of your writing. Later, when they know you, just pitching the idea for an article is usually sufficient.
The advantage of writing for magazines is that the pay is good - especially in the US which on average will pay $1 a word for a national publication. But don't be afraid to start small - with local news rags and small-run magazines. These will give you 'clippings' you can copy and include in your pitches to the larger outfits.
Of course, your main goal as an article writer should be 'the column'. This is where you get paid as a regular contributor and are basically allowed to say what you like about your apparent area of expertise (subject to the editor's idea of what is 'sensitive', I've found.)
I write a monthly column for Aurealis, a magazine about Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. I deliberately set out to get the gig because I noticed their coverage of horror writing and film was minimal.
I sent the editor four of my articles and asked if he'd be interested in me writing a monthly column. I didn't do any of the things they say you should. I didn't send him a resume, a list of credits or even mention the Easy Way to Write. I just told him I was a horror buff and made my letter as amusing as I could. The editor responded positively within a few days.
Now, I get to report on all sorts of things horror related. And basically the column takes me about an hour to write, most of which is spent scouring the Net for subject matter!
Anyway, I could go on, but I just wanted to make the world of article writing seem a little less intimidating to you.
I know that when I started, article writing seemed hard and I was very nervous about sending things out. 
Now I realize that I just had the wrong attitude. Mainly because, contrary to what you might expect, magazine editors are desperate for good articles, or more especially, writers that have simply taken the time to study their magazine and write to order.
Best of luck if you want to try it. For an easier ride through making cash money writing articles for paying markets, take a look at my Easy Cash Writing course.
Keep writing!
 rob at home

 "The answer is not in the knowing. It is in the seeking."
Rob Parnell

Thursday, August 16, 2012

11 Great Reasons to be a Writer

A week is a long time on the Internet. Seems like ages since I last did a newsletter. Can't believe it was only last Friday!

60 Day NovelThey say there's a recession on - again. 

All the more reason to start your writing career - and make a few more pennies to  keep the Big Bad Wolf from the door...

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11 Great Reasons to be a Writer

Rob Parnell

Today I thought I'd outline the perks associated with living the writer's life. Some of them are obvious but others less so.
1. You Get Your Name in Print
Obvious. The career writer knows that many people spend their entire lives trying to get to this, stage one, of the writer's life. 
You never take it for granted. It's what you slave for, yes, it's what you want but, more, what you really want is your writing in print.
Having your words in print is like an endorsement of who you are. Somehow you matter. And that feels good.
2. You Get Recognition
There are two aspects of this. One, you get people coming up to you in the supermarket who know your name - which is kind of weird the first time it happens - actually every time it happens because it's easy to forget you're famous, especially if you're not very famous!
Two, you go places or call people and they say, "Yeah, I know you," and it takes you by surprise. It's like having a flag bearing messenger running ahead of you, breathlessly telling people you're coming - and you're some sort of dignitary, so they'd better listen to you!
3. You Get Respect
You come up with an idea and you write it down, send it out and you are taken seriously. This in itself is wonderful. Of course you still get rejections but when you've had a little success, people listen for longer, they consider your idea, they let you pitch it and don't treat you with contempt. They're considering your idea rather than just little old you - which is the position you've always wanted to be in.
4. You Get Royalties
Those checks come in and of course, it's never enough. Okay, so you don't have to go back to real work but, consider this:
Rich artists will attest that, the bigger the royalty check, the less it's about you.
A certain responsibility comes with success. You're not only doing what you do for yourself. There's all the administrators, marketing people and retailers that are relying on your creativity to pay their wages to consider. Plus the duty of integrity you owe to your readers.
Scary thoughts - especially if you only went into the game for yourself.
5. You Get to Sleep In
Can't beat it with a stick.
We all get those times when you wake up and don't feel like facing the world. When you're a successful writer - as in you get paid for what you do - it's okay to indulge in those luxuries once in a while. Ah, bliss.
6. You've Got No Boundaries
You get to define your own priorities. You get to plan your day, your week, your year, your life.
If you want to spend a couple of months working on a novel, you can. If you want to develop a movie project idea, you can. If you want to do nothing for a couple of days, you can.
Of course, there's always the commercial consideration. You have to be sure that some money will come from your ideas eventually - in the future or in the short term - but whether and when you work on them, well, that's your decision, your call.
Nice work if you can get it, as they say.
7. You Get to Speak
People want you to talk, to come to their venues and say something. This is very flattering, especially if they say they don't care what you talk about, as long as you're there.
You get to talk about yourself and answer questions they want to ask you. It's nice to get those opportunities because it's like, what else was I going to do?
And you're going to pay me too? Wow, that's pretty cool.
8. You Get Presents
It's something that goes back to the beginning of time. People give gifts to those they like or revere. It's a show of respect. It can be very disarming, especially when it's unexpected, which is pretty much all of the time!
9. You Get Fans
It's weird when people quote your own lines back at you, especially when you hadn't thought those particular lines were important.
You get people that tell you they've been following your career, that they have read everything you've written, that they are your number one fan. You smile, you say nice things and you hope you won't let them down.
It's hard sometimes because you're thinking, "Thank you, but I'm just me!"
10. You Get Holidays
At last, a perk that is serious fun, even if it doesn't happen too often!
People often assume that when you're a writer you're already living one long holiday, so why would you need to go away? Uh, well, it doesn't quite work like that...
Just because you're doing something towards your career every day doesn't mean you don't feel the need to get away sometimes.
The best thing is, within reason and prior commitments, you can just go, whenever and wherever you like. But of course, you'll usually find an excuse to make it work related too!
11. You Get To Claim It All Against Tax
If you're an artist, an actor or a writer, then it's assumed you're being that 24/7. Everything you think and feel is about your work. Everything you do is about your work. Therefore, everything you do - and buy - is, at least in theory, tax deductible. Yowzah.
I hope all of the above reasons will inspire you to pursue the writer's life.
If you're in any doubt as to your abilities to compete, take a good look at the people you regard as rich and successful. What have they got that you haven't?
Talent? Good looks? Luck?
Nah, it's all about commitment - and the courage to believe.
Keep writing!
 rob at home

"The past is gone - remember only the love and lessons." Rob Parnell

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Fiction Matters

I made the video below this week - as part of Write On. Robyn thought it was so good, I should upload it separately. Enjoy! 

Why Fiction Matters

Rob Parnell

There are some strange folks out there who don’t like fiction. Or rather, they say they don't like it - which suggests to me three things.

Either they're just not crazy about reading - or they have no need for an active imagination - or that they just don’t understand the purpose of fiction.

Of course there will always be those who don't empathize with fictional characters. 

Some people don't like watching movies - although they're clearly a minority - and may be psychotic!

Some people say they never read fiction because it's not true, so there's no point.

To any budding novelist this attitude is as heinous as it is incomprehensible. 

My dad for one thinks that novels are too hard to follow so he never bothers with them. Never has. I bought him a book once for Christmas and Mum told me never to do that again. 

He struggled with reading.

‘If it’s any good, they’ll make a movie out of it,’ is one of his favorite lines.

Once when I showed him one of my own books he pretended to read the first page until he gave up and said, 'Just tell me what happens, alright?'

Many non-readers are dismissive of writing but still ask, 'What's it about?'

The implication here is obvious. To non-readers, it’s not the writing that’s important. It’s the story.

Whilst great writing might profoundly impress you or I, most people just want the message, rather than the medium.

As far as I can tell, people like stories for 4 main reasons:

1. Entertainment

2. Enlightenment

3. Validation

4. Salvation

These reasons have been the ‘point’ of telling and listening to stories since the beginning of time.

As a species, we need them.

They divert our attention from the mundane and take us out of ourselves for a while.

Stories can show us things we didn’t know about ourselves and others. 

We may gain valuable new perspectives to help us to better understand our neighbors, foreigners, even our enemies.

We need stories to make us feel better about ourselves - as human beings, as well as personalities. That’s why we like to identify with heroes and warriors - indeed, any character who can show us how to overcome obstacles.

We need stories to help us make sense of life and the world around us.

In real life, there are no beginnings and endings, just infinite sequences.

You know how it is. You listen to the news. Everything is a segment, a teaser, a sound byte, a tiny sample of every day life.

Nothing makes sense because there’s no apparent structure.

Without the confines that fiction offers us, we are drowning in a bewildering sea of actions and feelings and urges with no meaning.

Stories ‘frame’ real life into manageable chunks that have tangibility, involvement and purpose, whether for us individually or as a race.

Surely that’s what we were placed on this earth to do!

To make sense of who we are and why we are here.

THAT'S why fiction matters!

Keep writing!
 rob at home


"The less you know, the more you believe."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The 4 Phases of Wisdom

Achieving what you want is made possible - or impossible - depending on what you know, what you think you know - and where you are on your path towards success.

What follows is a guide to how to identify where you are on the 'wisdom cycle' that defines your relationship with your current goal.

Knowing exactly where you stand will often help you!

1. Genesis & Generation

This is where you first get the idea. It's fresh. It's inspired. It's all perfectly possible.

Hold on to this moment. Enjoy the feeling of it because it rarely comes back with such intensity.

It's the time when a novel - any big project - seems more than doable - so easy in fact it already exists! It's the time when, despite all outward appearances or reality, absolutely anything is possible.

Use this first phase to dream - and dream big. See yourself in the position of power and success that your inspiration has brought you.

Generate the dream - live it for a while.
Visualize your dream as real. Make it vivid, colorful and solid before the feeling fades. The stronger the image at this point the more forceful the motivation that follows.

2. Objectify & Organize

Now that you know what you want you need to gather all the facts on how you're going to achieve your goal.

But don't overwhelm yourself. Don't be too selective, or get too specific and detail obsessed. You need to see the broad canvas. You need to understand how everything works before you drill down.

You should read up on the subject in a non-critical way at first. Study the environment, liaise with its members and proponents. You don't want to know all the pros and cons yet - that's for later.

At this stage you want the broad strokes. You want the overview.

After all, when you're sure than anything's possible, you don't want to be put off. Use this study period to place your goal into the context of reality. Your reality.

At this stage you should still be excited by your dream - but also beginning to see it coming into existence.

It's the fun part - where inspiration meets intention.

3. Assimilate & Activate

Now it's time to go deeper.

Now it's okay to dwell on what's not going to work - and why your idea is terrible. It's important this is the third phase - and doesn't take place too early on in the process.

People who never get anything done dwell on the negatives too soon - before the dream has had time to blossom.

This can be a tough time - when you realize just how high you will have to climb, how far you will have to travel from your current position, just how much work this will involve.

It's the time when you work out the personal cost this task will take to achieve. But it's important you take all this information in. It's the reality check - the final stamp of approval from your logical, rational side.

You may find out that some things are not doable. But that's okay. Focus on what you can achieve - the baby steps, the broad structure of your plan, the first push into physical construction.

At the end of this phase you're finally ready to progress.

4. Leverage and Liberate

Now is the time to take action.

You have your dream. You know how things work with respect to reality. You now know how some things don't work - or will never bow to your preconceptions.

But that's okay. Armed with all the wisdom you need to start, you can now change the way things work. You can assert your dream upon the world. You can free your goal, let it loose, and make it happen.

The fourth phase may occupy the majority of your time but if you've done all the preparations - gone through the first three phases, nothing can stop you.

Setbacks and obstacles may alter you vision but not your course, your certainty.

Use the feedback you acquire to adjust your path toward your goal but never lose sight of the end result - the one you conjured during phase one, believed in phase two and activated in phase three.

Finally, when your goal is achieved, the cycle is complete and you can return to the first stage - where dreams and inspiration can again foment into goals.

This time to aspire to larger goals, and bigger dreams.

Because success is not really about getting stuff - it's about participating in the quest - being a creature of intention and creation - living out and through the four phases of wisdom.

Keep writing!
 rob at home

""Work expands to fill the time available for its completion."
C. Northcote Parkinson

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!